After hundreds of pages of documents and numerous press reports about the Seattle schools financial scandal, we know a lot about Silas Potter and his band of cronies who ran an ill-conceived small business program for the district. But what about the businesses the program was formed to help--the ones that got contracts to work on school construction projects? Even there, the documents suggest that corruption was at play, particularly in regard to a concrete company whose president allegedly boasted that he could get $2 million to "do nothing."
The father/son connection is brought up numerous times in documents released by the state auditor. Investigators observe that Quailen and Potter "spent a significant amount of time in the formation of a private company" called L4, actually a joint venture made up of Leajak and three other firms. And the auditor's team notes that Quailen and Potter "notified L4 of upcoming bid opportunities" with both the school district and the Port of Seattle. (Potter took it upon himself to expand his program well beyond the boundaries of school district contracts.)
Yet, according to investigators, Leajak should never have received any help at all from Potter's program. The company made more than $1 million a year, which was the cutoff set by the district for the small businesses that were to be eligible for Potter's assistance.
Indeed, Anderson, reached today by SW, vehemently defends himself by pointing to his company's long and established record. "I'm not some guy who fell off the turnip truck," he says. Leajak's website lists work on several Sound Transit projects, the South Lake Union Streetcar, and a seismic upgrade for a VA hospital.
In a 76-page overview of their probe (see pdf), investigators reported being told by a district facilities manager about a conversation that had allegedly occurred between Anderson and a former Garfield High principal and schools executive named Ammon McWashington.
McWashington had told the facilities manager that he had a locker next to Anderson at the Washington Athletic Club. And, the former principal said, Anderson told him that Leajak had received a promise from Potter that the company could get easy money on Garfield's renovation. (Leajak also worked on the renovation of Chief Sealth High School.)
Anderson insists the conversation never took place. "I don't know the person," he says of McWashington, whom he warns "better be careful."
But Leajak did, in fact, receive a $1.2 million contract to work on Garfield, according to documents. Anderson said he did seismic retrofitting. "I busted my ass on the project."
Investigators said they were prevented by "resource constraints" from checking out the work Leajak performed. School board vice-president Michael DeBell says a previous audit that reviewed the Garfield project did not raise issues about Leajak's work. But, he says, "it certainly seems like it would warrant a second look."
On Thursday, the board's audit and finance committee will meet to discuss other potential actions in response to the latest audit in addition to firing Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson. According to board member Peter Maier, the district has also hired outside counsel to pursue possible legal cases against individuals and companies that misused district money.